Manchester Police Turn To Community To Help Curb Crime
by Ryan Lessard
All this summer, NHPR's newsroom will take a closer look at crime in Manchester and how it affects the city and its residents. We're calling the series Queen City Crime. Today, we begin with a look at Manchester's Police Department and how it balances small-city challenges with big-city problems. A renewed focus on community policing is helping the department solve some of its staffing issues.
“…will perform all the duties incumbent upon you as a police officer for the city of Manchester so help you God.
On the morning before the Boston Marathon bombings, the Manchester Police Department's Chief David Mara swore in seven new officers. That got them to a new total 212 officers and the number is budgeted to rise to 221 by the end of the summer. But those new recruits aren't the only ones helping to tackle crime in the Queen City.
Diane Lavigne started the Rimmon Heights Watch Group on the west side in 2006. One of the city's largest groups, they meet once a month at the Chez Vachon restaurant after hours.
“We had a lot of annoyances. So it's not something you'd call 9-1-1 for but like drinking parties, kids gone wild, apartment buildings where people are moving in and it's supposed to be empty.”
“Manchester's an interesting… it's like big and small at the same time. So it's got like a combination of like small city problems and then like big city problems.”
With a population of about one hundred ten thousand residents, rookie Officer Kevin Jusza, nicknamed “Captain” after his rank in the Army, sees problems of all sizes.
“Y'know, throughout the day you'll have… you'll respond to the barking dog complaint or the neighbors who just can't get along. Even something as silly as ‘hey my next door neighbor is dumping grass in my…' y'know, silly things like that. Then you'll also have things that are also indicative of a larger city like drug problems and things of that nature. So, it's got a little bit of everything.”
It's because of that mix of big and small city problems that Chief Mara wants to grow the force.
“A city our size should have between 250 and 275.”
That would give the department a ratio of about two point five cops for every thousand residents. That's better than the national average for a city this size. But growing the force by that much isn't likely. The city of Manchester just doesn't have the money. The city only added more officers this year after the police unions made healthcare concessions.
In the meantime, the Chief is turning his focus to the community—community watch groups and a community policing division to help fill the gaps. The division used to be a small unit of patrol, but Mara raised it to the status of division after taking office.
Part of the community policing division's job is to oversee neighborhood watch groups. And that job falls to Officer Mark Ampuja. He says each community officer is assigned to a specific neighborhood and creates relationships with the people living there.
“It's kinda going back to that old-time police philosophy where the neighbors knew the police officers and the police officers, they know the residents within their neighborhood. And it really does open up those lines of communication where they feel comfortable in reporting different activity.”
Ampuja says that the number of neighborhood watch groups has spiked since 2006 at 80 groups from only 15 ranging in size from just two to 200 members. Today about 55 watch groups are active in the city.
“I know we saw a big rise, influx in the watch groups, shortly after Officer Michael Briggs was killed in the line of duty. I think after that we saw a lot of residents really wanting to get involved in law enforcement.”
The idea is that more police out pounding a neighborhood's pavement, talking with the residents, means an improvement in the quality of life. A preventive care approach to crime, in a sense. It also helps residents feel more connected to their community and more empowered to make a difference.
Ampuja says none of the volunteer groups fit the TV stereotype of matching windbreakers, binoculars and walkie-talkies. In fact, they're more often outside doing small projects—like Diane Lavigne in Rimmon Heights.
“It was plain. There was not a lot of green around. So one of our objectives was to make the area safer, cleaner, more beautiful, hoping it would encourage more people to move into the area.”
The group has spearheaded local initiatives to clean up parks, plant flowers and they even paid for the Rimmon Heights banners over Kelley Street. But should those “annoyances” ever crop up, they have the help of their community officer, a cell phone call away.
Police departments determine their officer complement based on factors beyond simple population and municipal budgets also vary. Here's a look at the current department sizes for cities with populations similar to Manchester's.
From the White House
Expanding National Service
by Cecilia Muñoz and Wendy Spencer
In his 1989 Inaugural Address, when President George H.W. Bush uttered the words “a thousand points of light” he launched a movement. By signing the first National Service Act in 1990, President Bush ushered in the modern era of national service, setting the stage for the creation of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).
Likewise, President Obama long has believed that service builds stronger communities and can improve the lives of those who take part. In his first 100 days in office, he signed the bipartisan Serve America Act that set out a plan to increase AmeriCorps, our flagship national service program. Since that time, applications to AmeriCorps have reached an all-time high and more Americans are volunteering than at any previous point in the past five years.
The Administration has responded to this new demand by launching new programs such as FEMA Corps and School Turnaround AmeriCorps that create new pathways for people to serve. In these new “Corps,” young people are serving their country, while gaining valuable experience in fields such as emergency management or classroom instruction that can help to prepare them for the workforce.
Building on the momentum of these new pathways, during an event with President Bush earlier today, the President unveiled a new Presidential Memorandum on Expanding National Service. With this memo, President Obama seeks to tap the full resources of the federal government to provide more opportunities for citizens to engage in service and volunteering.
The Memorandum establishes a task force made up of federal agencies who will consult with CNCS to explore howthey can leverage programs like AmeriCorps to make progress on national priorities. It encourages the use of innovation and technology to facilitate volunteerism and expand civic participation.
In an environment of tight budgets, it recommends public-private partnerships to scale such activities. And, after such programs have helped these individuals to develop skills that improve their career prospects, it calls on the government to explore how such talent potentially can be recruited back into the federal workforce to continue their commitment to public service.
President Obama believes that the best way we can honor President Bush's commitment to service is to continue his legacy. By issuing this Memorandum, he has set the stage for the next generation of Americans to participate in national service, supporting their communities and strengthening our country.
Cecilia Muñoz is the Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Wendy Spencer is CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service
WEEKLY ADDRESS: Strengthening our Economy by Passing Bipartisan Immigration Reform
WASHINGTON, DC— In this week's address, President Obama said that two weeks ago, a large bipartisan majority in the Senate voted to pass commonsense immigration reform, which would add a big boost to our economy, strengthen Social Security, and modernize our legal immigration system to make it more consistent with our values. The President urges Congress to quickly take action to fix our broken immigration system and keep America strong for years to come.
The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, July 13, 2013.
Remarks of President Barack Obama -- Weekly Address
The White House -- July 13, 2013
Hi, everybody. Two weeks ago, a large bipartisan majority of Senators voted to pass commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform – taking an important step towards fixing our broken immigration system once and for all.
This bill was a compromise, and neither side got everything they wanted. But it was largely consistent with the key principles of commonsense reform that most of us in both parties have repeatedly laid out. If passed, the Senate's plan would build on the historic gains we've made in border security over the past four years with the most aggressive border security plan in our history. It would offer a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million people who are in this country illegally – a pathway that includes paying penalties, learning English, and going to the end of the line behind everyone trying to come here legally. And it would modernize our legal immigration system to make it more consistent with our values.
The Senate's plan would also provide a big boost to our recovery. And on Wednesday, we released a report detailing exactly how big a boost that would be.
The report is based on the findings of independent, nonpartisan economists and experts who concluded that, if the Senate's plan becomes law, our economy will be 5% larger in two decades compared to the status quo. That's $1.4 trillion added to our economy just by fixing our immigration system.
Here in America, we've always been a nation of immigrants. That's what's kept our workforce dynamic, our businesses on the cutting edge, and our economy the strongest in the world. But under the current system, too many smart, hardworking immigrants are prevented from contributing to that success.
Immigration reform would make it easier for highly-skilled immigrants and those who study at our colleges and universities to start businesses and create jobs right here in America. Foreign companies would be more likely to invest here. The demand for goods and services would go up – creating more jobs for American workers. Every worker and business would be required to pay their fair share in taxes, reducing our deficit by nearly $850 billion over the next two decades. And since a large portion of those taxes go towards retirement programs that millions of Americans depend on, Social Security would actually get stronger over the long-term – adding two years to the life of the program's trust fund.
That's what immigration reform would mean for our economy – but only if we act. If we don't do anything to fix our broken system, our workforce will continue to shrink as baby boomers retire. We won't benefit from highly-skilled immigrants starting businesses and creating jobs here. American workers will have to make due with lower wages and fewer protections. And without more immigrants and businesses paying their fair share in taxes, our deficit will be higher and programs like Social Security will be under more strain.
We've been debating this issue for more than a decade – ever since President Bush first proposed the broad outlines of immigration reform – and I think he gave a very good speech this past week expressing his hope that a bipartisan, comprehensive bill can become law.
If Democrats and Republicans – including President Bush and I – can agree on something, that's a pretty good place to start. Now the House needs to act so I can sign commonsense immigration reform into law. And if you agree, tell your Representatives that now is the time. Call or email or post on their Facebook walls and ask them to get this done. Because together, we can grow our economy and keep America strong for years to come.
Thanks, and have a great weekend.
From the Department of Justice
Justice Department Statement on the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Case
"As the Department first acknowledged last year, we have an open investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin. The Department of Justice's Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation continue to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial. Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate in accordance with the Department's policy governing successive federal prosecution following a state trial.”